US law­mak­ers urge NBA to sus­pend China ac­tiv­i­ties

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A bi­par­ti­san set of U.S. law­mak­ers urged the NBA on Wed­nes­day to sus­pend all ac­tiv­i­ties in China un­til Chi­nese firms and broad­cast­ers end their boy­cott of the league and the Houston Rock­ets.

The open let­ter to NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver came from eight U.S. law­mak­ers as po­lit­i­cally di­verse as Ted Cruz of Texas and Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez from New York, both from states with mul­ti­ple NBA teams.

“You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s tar­gets and should have the courage and in­tegrity to use it,” the let­ter said.

“It’s not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect Amer­i­can com­pa­nies to put our fun­da­men­tal demo­cratic rights ahead of profit.”

The let­ter comes in the wake of a since-deleted tweet from Rock­ets gen­eral man­ager Daryl Morey sup­port­ing Hong Kong pro-democ­racy pro­test­ers.

That prompted the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to end spon­sor­ships for the team and league and drop planned NBA tele­casts in China, huge NBA lo­gos and ban­ner be­ing stripped off build­ings a sign of the anger.

Af­ter early NBA state­ments were seen as overly ca­pit­u­lat­ing, Sil­ver said, “I un­der­stand there are con­se­quences from … his free­dom of speech. We will have to live with those con­se­quences. As a league, we’re not will­ing to com­pro­mise those val­ues.”

The full cost might not be known for months, with the NBA hav­ing made lu­cra­tive deals to a na­tion of 1.4 bil­lion that loves bas­ket­ball. But the law­mak­ers de­manded val­ues win over prof­its.

“Equiv­o­cat­ing when prof­its are at stake is a be­trayal of fun­da­men­tal Amer­i­can val­ues,” the law­mak­ers wrote. “That you have more po­ten­tial fans in China than in Hong Kong is no ex­cuse for bend­ing over back­wards to ex­press ‘sen­si­tiv­ity’ only to one side.”

Law­mak­ers urged Sil­ver to take four steps to har­den the NBA’s stance against China’s re­tal­ia­tory moves, most no­tably shut­ting down NBA ac­tiv­i­ties in China, where two pre-sea­son ex­hi­bi­tion games were slated to be played.

“The NBA should have an­tic­i­pated the chal­lenges of do­ing busi­ness in a coun­try run by a re­pres­sive sin­gle party gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing by be­ing pre­pared to stand in strong de­fense of the free­dom of ex­pres­sion of its em­ploy­ees, play­ers, and af­fil­i­ates across the globe,” the law­mak­ers wrote.

They also pushed for an end to pun­ish­ments to the Rock­ets, say­ing the NBA must be united against “fu­ture ef­forts by Chi­nese gov­ern­ment-con­trolled en­ti­ties to sin­gle out in­di­vid­ual teams, play­ers, or as­so­ci­ates for boy­cotts or se­lec­tive treat­ment.”

That would also in­clude NBA stars with ma­jor spon­sor deals in China, in­clud­ing LeBron James, James Har­den and now-re­tired Kobe Bryant.

Law­mak­ers want Sil­ver to “re-eval­u­ate” hav­ing an NBA Acad­emy in Xin­jiang, “where up to a mil­lion Chi­nese ci­ti­zens are held in con­cen­tra­tion camps as part of a mas­sive gov­ern­ment-run cam­paign of ethno-re­li­gious re­pres­sion.” About 240 teens are housed in the ed­u­ca­tion and fit­ness cen­ters.

The threat of ca­pit­u­lat­ing on free speech is­sues to Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party cen­sor­ship by the NBA and other busi­nesses was a ma­jor em­pha­sis for law­mak­ers.

“We would hope to see Amer­i­cans stand­ing up and speak­ing out in de­fense of the rights of the peo­ple of Hong Kong,” the let­ter said, say­ing pres­sure on Morey to back away from his tweet “sold out an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.”

AP-Yon­hap

Ac­tivists hold up a sign be­fore an NBA ex­hi­bi­tion bas­ket­ball game be­tween the Washington Wizards and the Guangzhou Loong-Lions in Washington, Wed­nes­day.

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